Arusha, 21 July 2008(FH)—The African Union has approved a plan to merge the African Human and Peoples’ Rights Court with that of the African Court of Justice, reports Hirondelle Agency. “The meeting of Heads of State in Egypt has endorsed the plan which will enable Arusha-based African Court effectively execute its work as a single continental judicial organ,’’ said Justice Gerard Niyungeko, President of the African Court.

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However, Justice Niyungeko said that there was need to allow Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and individuals to file cases before the Court, an issue that was not agreed upon at the Summit.
Currently, the status of the Court allows only states which have ratified to be able to bring cases before the Court. Only Burkina Faso and Mali have issued declaration accepting the Court’s competence to entertain cases from individuals and NGOs.
The Summit reminded member states which have not ratified the protocol establishing the African Court to do so as soon as possible, said Justice Niyungeko
So far only 24 member states out of 53 African Union (AU) have ratified the Protocol.
Among early countries which have ratified the Protocol include Rwanda, which had seen one of the worst forms of human killings of the modern century in 1994. Tanzania ratified the Protocol in February 2006, which paved the way for her to host the Court.
Other countries are: Algeria , Burkina Faso , Burundi , Coted’Ivoire, Comoros , Kenya , Gabon , Gambia , Ghana , Libya ,Lesotho,Madagascar,Mozambique,Mauritania,Mauritius,Nigeria,Niger, South Africa, Senegal, Togo, Tunisia and Uganda.
The Court, unlike other organs of AU, was empowered to give binding judgements which are enforceable against parties.
The Court was established by the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Protocol adopted by members states in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in June 1998. The Protocol entered into force in January 2004.
The Court started its operations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in November 2006 but moved to its permanent seat in Arusha in August, last year. It is only the President of the Court who is permanent resident so far.